Williamstown Catholic Young Men’s Society (CYMS) women’s team nicknamed The Sea-gals has enjoyed its inaugural football season. But co-president Stephanie Payne says “the dream come true is well overdue”.
The club, which competes in the Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA), was founded in 1886 and functioned as a male-only sporting establishment until this year.
“I’ve been involved in the club for a few years now but I couldn’t believe they hadn’t considered having a women’s team,” says Payne. “For me it was a no-brainer.”
The team started the season in division three but was elevated by VAFA officials after winning its first three matches.
“If you tell women they can’t do something, they’ll show you they can. We’ve got 30 girls who have been told they couldn’t play footy because they weren’t men, they’re hungry,” Payne says.
Australian Football League rules state that female players are only permitted to play with males up to the under 14s age group, where they must then join a female only team if they wish to continue playing.
Team member Lucy Craigie said while she understood the rule, the lack of local opportunity for women meant she was forced out of the game.
“I just tried to get involved in any way I could,” she says. “I became team manager of my brothers team, I started umpiring football, I even umpired the men at The National Championships in Canberra, but I just wanted to play.”
Craigie says: “It’s pretty tough, having played as part of a team for four years and being told you’re the only one that can’t continue playing with them because you’re a girl.”
Payne says Craigie’s experience was not uncommon. “I got involved in the committee because I couldn’t play. One of our best players is the trainer for the men’s team. We just get involved any way we can because we love the game.”
The Williamstown CY’s women’s team mascot is a seagull. Payne says it feels as though the Sea-gals have been playing together for years.
The success of the new team resulted in an invite to play as the curtain raiser match for the local VFL team on Mothers Day. “The girls were like a kid in a candy store, for a lot of them it’s a dream they thought was long gone”.
Sea-gals captain Hannah Elliot has returned to the club after having to seek out a female only club after she reached the Under 14s cut off.
“There were a few times that (continuing to play) was becoming all too hard,” Elliot says. “You have to travel for almost an hour just to get to your home game, let alone if we were playing away”.
“My grandpa, dad and brother all played for this club so being told I had to go was pretty devastating, but we’re back and it’s already been the best season of football I’ve played,” Elliot says.